Verizon Announces FiOS TV Content Coming to Microsoft Xbox

  • Verizon has announced a new feature and related promotion that suggests it is “taking a much more active interest in video games for both distribution and new customers,” reports Mashable.
  • “FiOS customers who subscribe to both FiOS TV and FiOS Internet and are Xbox LIVE Gold members can use their Xbox consoles to watch select live FiOS TV channels. No extra hardware,” explains a post in the Verizon Forum. “Plus, for the first time, Kinect for Xbox 360 will be integrated into the TV experience, allowing customers to use voice and gesture commands to control their TV viewing.”
  • Initially, only 26 channels will be available starting in December.
  • For $89.99, you can get triple-play service, a limited Xbox LIVE Gold membership and a sponsor spot for Machinima’s Gamers’ Choice Award.

In Development: Would an HTC Facebook Phone Prove to be the Next Zune?

  • Microsoft lost trust from its hardware partners with the Zune MP3 player which ultimately caused the product to fail. The new Facebook phone could be equally disastrous by pinning HTC against its current software partners.
  • HTC has strong relationships with Google for Android OS and Microsoft for Windows Phone 7, relationships that could be jeopardized in moving forward with a Facebook phone.
  • “One of the key standout features for Windows Phone 7 is social networking and in particular, Facebook integration (Facebook and Microsoft are partnered),” reports Digital Trends. “Google, on the other hand, is at war with Facebook with Google+, and monetizes Android after-the-fact with services like Google+.”
  • “Right now Apple, Microsoft and others spend lots of time on Facebook, but they aren’t likely to continue if they view Facebook as a potential competitor,” suggests the post. “Facebook should be focused on building the best Facebook app for every major platform.”
  • In a related survey conducted by AllThingsD, results suggest an overwhelming number of readers had little to no desire for a Facebook phone (81 percent indicated no interest and 12 percent said they would consider it).

Now Cooler than Skype: What Happened to the Microsoft Kinect?

  • The Microsoft Kinect 3D camera was a hot seller last holiday season, but now it seems that the buzz has subsided.
  • According to PC Magazine writer John C. Dvorak, the Kinect is in phase 10 of an 11-phase process that most high-tech products go through…
  • Phases 1-3: A hot product generates rumors, there’s a pre-announcement to either downplay or exaggerate the product, followed by media speculation, which is drawn out until the product arrives.
  • Phases 4-6: The product is rolled out and a shipping date is set, followed by shipment of the first batch ship and afterwards, a shortage announcement.
  • Phases 7-9: The black market, described by Dvorak as “a short-term black market for the device emerges, sometimes arranged by the company itself,” followed by the product’s complete release and then a PR effort to sustain interest.
  • Phase 10: New uses. “Out-of-the-blue, new uses are ascribed to the device if possible. These supposed new uses should have been planned from the beginning.”
  • And finally, Phase 11: an analysis determined by long-term public reception of product, leading to three options: do it all over, make routine minor adjustments/improvements, or let it sell until it runs out and call it quits after that.
  • “The Kinect is now in phase ten and new uses are being ascribed, mainly 3D telecommunications,” writes Dvorak. “You can spot the hand of the PR folks involved by the repetitious and redundant messages seen in far too many of the stories. In this case, it’s that 3D Kinect is ‘now cooler than Skype.'”

The Surface: Microsoft Table-Sized Tablet to Ship by Early 2012

  • The Surface 2.0 SDK, demonstrated at last year’s CES, will be released sometime early next year. Pre-orders can be placed with Samsung resellers in 23 countries (including the United States).
  • The $8,400 table-sized tablet, also wall-mountable, is four inches thick and recognizes hands, fingers and objects placed on the screen. It is currently known as the “Surface” or “Samsung SUR40 for Microsoft Surface.”
  • “Running Windows 7 and Surface 2.0 software, SUR40 has a 40-inch screen measured diagonally, 1,920×1,080 resolution, a contrast ratio of 2,000:1, an AMD GPU along with 2.9GHz Athlon X2 dual-core processors, 320GB of storage, and 4GB of memory,” reports Ars Technica. “Ports include Ethernet, HDMI, and 4 USB 2.0 ports.”
  • Microsoft targets the Surface for professional use and envisions it being used in a number of industries including automotive, education, finance, healthcare, hospitality and retail.
  • The original Surface is already in use by the Hard Rock Cafes, Microsoft retail stores, MSNBC, Disney, Sheraton hotels and others.

Former Apple Inventor Offers New Slant on the Future of Interaction Design

  • Are touchscreens the ultimate expression for us to manipulate computing devices? (See the Microsoft video included in the post.)
  • In “A Brief Rant on the Future of Interactive Design,” former Apple human-interface inventor Bret Victor opts not to address human needs or technology, but what he sees as the “neglected third factor, human capabilities. What people can do. Because if a tool isn’t designed to be used by a person, it can’t be a very good tool, right?”
  • Victor sees our hands as the central component of our interactive future. If one looks at the range of expression and control for our hands, one realizes how much more is possible.
  • Victor describes touchscreens, for example, as “pictures under glass” which ignore the fact that our “hands feel things” and “manipulate things.” “Pictures Under Glass sacrifice all the tactile richness of working with our hands, offering instead a hokey visual facade,” he writes.
  • “Pictures Under Glass is an interaction paradigm of permanent numbness,” he adds. “It’s a Novocaine drip to the wrist. It denies our hands what they do best. And yet, it’s the star player in every Vision Of The Future.”
  • Victor doesn’t have a solution or a prediction for our interactive future, but suggests we start thinking differently in order to achieve it. “Pictures Under Glass is old news. Let’s start using our hands.”

Adobe Announces Aggressive Focus on HTML5, Abandons Mobile Flash

  • Adobe will no longer continue to develop its Flash Player for mobile devices. Instead, it will focus its resources on HTML5, according to the company’s blog.
  • “HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively,” writes Danny Winokur, VP and GM, Adobe Interactive Development. “This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms. We are excited about this, and will continue our work with key players in the HTML community, including Google, Apple, Microsoft and RIM, to drive HTML5 innovation they can use to advance their mobile browsers.”
  • Future efforts for Flash on mobile devices will focus on creating native apps with Adobe AIR for all the major app stores.
  • “Did Apple ensure mobile Flash’s demise by preventing it from competing properly? Or did Adobe’s insistence on keeping the format proprietary, complicated by Flash’s alleged performance issues, tie Cupertino’s hands?” asks TIME. “Whatever the case, with Adobe’s mobile development switching to HTML5, all eyes are on the desktop version of Flash, and whether after nearly a decade-and-a-half of use, Adobe will eventually opt to retire it, too.”

Digital Economy: U.S. Companies Push for New Internet Trade Rules

  • “Google, Microsoft, Citigroup, IBM, GE and other top-tier American companies on Thursday urged the United States to fight for trade rules that protect the free flow of information over the Internet,” reports Reuters.
  • The coalition criticized federal requirements for companies to have their data centers within a country’s borders to provide services. Additionally, the group argued against governments blocking access to services such as Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and YouTube.
  • The group says future U.S. trade pacts must “reflect the new realities of the global economy: specifically, the contribution of the Internet toward economic growth, toward job creation and exports,” said Bob Boorstin, director of public policy for Google.
  • “Even when Internet curbs are intended to support legitimate public interests such as national security of law enforcement, businesses can suffer when those rules are unclear, arbitrary, unevenly applied or more trade restrictive than they need to be to achieve their objectives,” suggests the group’s paper.
  • “We want the free flow of data just like we want the free flow of goods and services,” said Nuala O’Connor Kelly, chief privacy leader at General Electric. “In the information age, data is our widget.”

Computing: Researchers Predict Faster-Than-Ever Transformation

  • IBM researchers are developing SyNAPSE, a new generation chip that can learn from experience, create its own hypothesis and remember. In a simple exercise, it learned to play Pong badly at first, but was unbeatable weeks later.
  • “As chips such as the one from SyNAPSE become smarter and smaller, it will be possible to embed them in everyday objects,” reports Businessweek. “That portends a future in which the interaction between computer and user is far more natural and ubiquitous.”
  • As previously reported on ETCentric, Microsoft is working on Holodesk, a 3D user interface that allows one to interact with 3D objects using an Xbox Kinect and an optical transparent display.
  • Intel’s 2020 CPU hopes to communicate with algorithms and other machines as well as “understand what it means to be human.”
  • “Computing is undergoing the most remarkable transformation since the invention of the PC,” said Intel CEO Paul Otellini. “The innovation of the next decade is going to outstrip the innovation of the past three combined.”

Forty-One Percent of Enterprises Block Access for Employee-Owned Macs

  • Ars Technica reports: “Forty-one percent of enterprises do not allow employee-owned Macs access to any company resources, even Web-based e-mail, according to the results of a new Forrester survey of IT executives at North American and European companies.”
  • Some companies will offer a stipend to employees to buy Macs if they prefer, but the enterprise seems to stay away because of higher prices and ingrained IT Microsoft traditions.
  • Forrester suggests that productivity is linked with the freedom to choose personal computers. Many employees prefer the “uncluttered Macs — especially those with solid-state drives, which are more responsive and boot in seconds,” according to Forrester analyst David Johnson.
  • Problems arise with the need for Mac-specific management software and file sharing, but Johnson points out tech departments that stand in the way “will eventually get run over.”

Should Google and Microsoft Fear the Potential of Siri?

  • Tech analyst Tim Bajarin says both Google and Microsoft have been downplaying the significance of Apple’s Siri because they know it could seriously impact their core search businesses, especially as it gains access to even more online databases.
  • “You shouldn’t be communicating with the phone; you should be communicating with somebody on the other side of the phone,” Google mobile chief Andy Rubin told Walt Mossberg at the recent AsiaD conference.
  • Microsoft’s Andy Lees suggested that Siri “isn’t super useful” and added that the voice interactivity of Windows Phone 7 when connected to Bing harnesses “the full power of the Internet, rather than a certain subset.”
  • Bajarin counters that, “Apple has just introduced voice as a major user interface and that its use of voice coupled with AI on a consumer product like the iPhone is going to change the way consumers think about man-machine interfaces in the future.”
  • Siri is not just a voice UI, but a gatekeeper to natural language searching of online databases that may eventually make Apple the third major search company worldwide.

App Downloads for Android Sell More than iPhone and iPad Combined

  • App downloads on Google’s Android platform now top iPhone and iPad combined, even in the absence of any competitive Android tablets.
  • The OS accounted for 44 percent of all app downloads for Q2 of this year, according to a recent study by New York-based ABI Research.
  • In the new Steve Jobs’ biography, the Apple founder rails against Android as a “stolen product,” one that he vowed to go to “thermonuclear war” in order to stop its success. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer recently derided the OS as well, adding you need to be a “computer scientist” to understand Android phones.
  • “But a flood of low-priced handsets this summer has catapulted Android ahead of Apple for the first time in terms of app downloads,” reports the Daily Mail.
  • However, Apple still leads in the per user category. “Android’s app downloads per user still lag behind Apple’s by 2 to 1,” explains Dan Shey at ABI.

Is Skype Co-Founder Gunning for Netflix with Subscription Vdio?

  • Janus Friis, co-founder of KaZaA, Skype, Joost and Rdio (with partner Niklas Zennstrom) is working on a new online video subscription service that will be available soon in the UK.
  • According to GigaOM, Friis has been “assembling an A-team of media and Web technology experts to launch a site that seems destined to replicate the model behind their music subscription site Rdio in the video space.” Offices have been set up in Santa Monica and Europe.
  • From the follow-up Q&A: Vdio (Vee-dee-o) is in closed beta for the UK and is privately funded, while the assembled team’s experience comes from companies such as Netflix, Microsoft, TV Guide and Napster.
  • A spokesperson for Zennstrom’s VC company Atomico confirmed that Zennstrom is not involved in the project.

Google Patent Portfolio Too Thin to Protect Against Competitors?

  • Google has a relatively small patent collection, with most of its patents related to fundamental search algorithms and technologies.
  • Looking to expand into the mobile sphere, Google purchased Motorola’s cellphone business and by extension its patent portfolio to “better protect Android from anticompetitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies,” Google CEO Larry Page said.
  • However, IPVision, a patent-analyzing software company, says, “the 1,029 patents that Google bought from IBM in July contain little that the company could use to either attack its competitors or defend its own products.”
  • Google will most likely need to expand its patents into mobile software. “It’s common knowledge that Google is patent poor,” says Hoo-Min Toong, co-founder of IPVision. “Not only does it need to gain patents in their own product areas, but also in defending themselves against other claims.”

Microsoft: Xbox Video Service Features Voice and Motion Controls

  • Microsoft is getting a boatload of new content for its Xbox video service intended to help it serve as a digital media hub. The company has struck deals with Comcast, Verizon, HBO and others.
  • Verizon and Comcast will be joining AT&T’s U-Verse to provide content, although while Verizon will include live video TV and video on demand, Comcast is testing the waters with its VOD library only. HBO Go streaming access will provide HBO original programming and movies from Warner Bros., Fox Searchlight and Universal Studios. Bravo, EPIX and Syfy are among the cable networks that will be available. Xbox’s international content will include the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and LOVEFiLM in the UK; Antena 3, RTVE and Telefonica in Spain; and Televisa in Mexico.
  • But how do you get to the movies, TV shows, games and music that you want? Microsoft hopes you will command your Xbox with voice control, motion control and a Windows smartphone.
  • “This is incremental stuff but it’s still interesting. A source who’s played with the new service says it’s genuinely cool. Just as important, given that Microsoft has sold some 50 million compatible machines, it has (potential) leverage to do some really interesting stuff,” reports All Things D. “This is where Google TV would like to be, and it’s why Google is out pitching content guys for a relaunch this fall.”

Are There Implications to Consider Regarding the Silk Web Browser?

  • As part of its New York press event yesterday that unveiled the Kindle Fire tablet and three new Kindle e-readers, Amazon announced Silk, a new Web browser powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS) and available exclusively on its new tablet.
  • Amazon Silk is an important part of the Kindle Fire pitch, and as a “split browser” exclusive to the tablet it “gets the heavy lifting done on its EC2 cloud servers and promises faster access as a result,” reports Engadget. “Dubbed Silk to represent an ‘invisible, yet incredibly strong connection,’ it takes advantage of Amazon’s existing speedy connections, and that so many sites are already hosted on its servers to speed up Web access.”
  • Amazon’s cloud-accelerated browser may have some technical implications. First, Amazon may release a Silk desktop browser. It’s reliance on Amazon’s EC2 infrastructure may cut off access to the Web for customers during outages. That said, if Amazon succeeds, it may push other browser developer such as Google, Apple and Microsoft to follow. Mozilla may have a difficult time doing the same.
  • From a privacy perspective, Amazon talks about learning from “aggregate traffic patterns,” but in reality each Kindle has its own Amazon ID. Thus, Amazon will be able to track your personal Web habits, buying patterns and media preferences in detail.
  • “Until the Kindle Fire ships, there are more questions than answers,” suggests ReadWriteWeb. “I’m eager to get hands on a Fire so I can test out Silk and see for myself how it works. I’m not yet concerned about the privacy issues, but I do think they bear watching. What do you think? Is the Silk model something you’re excited about, or is Amazon a middle-man you’d rather do without when browsing the Web?”

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